Today was my final day at my part-time job. Two weeks ago, I turned in my notice, and now this day has finally come!
For the past year (June 2014 to June 2015), I have spent part of my week making sandwiches for a local health food store. When I first started, I thought it would be pretty easy, as I’m sure most people do when they start a job doing something like this. After all, it was just a bunch of sandwiches, right? But I got to see everything behind that; how the sandwich maker has to get up hours in advance to make 30-45 sandwiches before 10-11 AM so they’re ready for lunch; how the back room has to always be stocked; how to use a commercial sink; even communication is important in a job where all you do is make sandwiches!
I will have to say, I began regretting my decision to apply after the first few days of training. At that point, it took more than four hours for me to make sandwiches, because I was still learning where everything was and clinging to the cue cards, checking and double-checking to make sure I had everything right. I was coming in at around 6-6:30 AM, and it was eating up all of my morning, which I hated because I’m most creative in the morning and at night. I had no energy for most of the day, which sucked. I started getting constructive criticism from my boss, who said things like, “You’re going too slow. They need to be done in under three hours. It’s too expensive to sell sandwiches if you’re taking four hours to make them.” The previous sandwich-maker had been doing them in two hours or less! I thought that was crazy!
I almost quit. I thought it was impossible to make everything that quickly. But I didn’t want to abandon my boss only a month after starting, so I prayed for strength and persevered. Miraculously, almost, I was able to cut back the time each week. But it wasn’t quite good enough, since it still wasn’t under three hours per day. At the same time, the other newly-hired sandwich maker kept leaving some things in disarray or out of stock, which added to my time because I had to go back in after him. The cheese and turkey kept going moldy way before their expiration dates. It was quite a trying time, but I kept going.
One morning, I came in to find that the whole back room had been rearranged, and there was now a designated “sandwich station” that had everything needed for sandwich-making in one place–no more running here and there to get ingredients and looking in three different refrigerators. It was unbelievable how much this helped–not only did it work better in terms of layout, but it looked more professional, more like the back room of a restaurant than the back room of a store. It was about this time that I started coming in very early; early enough for my mom to help me, drop me off at home, and head to her work. My whole point was to be more efficient and get my time down (I was still hovering at just over three hours per day), but my boss said that had to stop, citing insurance as the reason. I learned later that aside from insurance, he wanted me to learn to do things by myself.
That was noble reasoning, I thought, so I kept coming in early and working as fast as I could. My new goal became not to get my hours down, but to get everything done before the person opening the store on a given day came in and turned on the music. (I had found out that having music going slows me down because I get distracted.) This was the trick. Now I was able to make sandwiches faster, often just under three hours per day, but still good nonetheless.
Through repetition, I started memorizing the recipes, and my time went down even more. Now, having fully memorized all of the recipes, I can make ~40 sandwiches in about two hours. Thanks to a communication error on my part (I misunderstood how it was written down but didn’t think I misunderstood at the time), I have made 84 sandwiches in four hours. So now I know that it isn’t crazy; making them that quickly definitely can be done!
Why did I quit?
There are a number of reasons, but the primary one is my art. That is what I want to focus on, that is what I want to spend my time doing, and I needed those mornings back. Yes, even though I ended up only working Fridays and Saturdays, save the times where I needed to swap a shift (like this week) or cover someone’s vacation (two weeks ago). Working a part-time job making sandwiches took up mental space as well; now I don’t have to worry about it.
It is good, I think, that if you are an artist with a part-time job, that job should be unrelated to artwork, because you won’t be expending your artistic energies on a job or project that is not your own. That was part of the reason why this sandwich job was good for me, for a time.
Another reason is that I felt like I had learned everything that I needed to from the position; there really wasn’t anything left for me to learn. I’d graduated from this training ground, so to speak. It was time to move on.
What I’ve Learned
I have learned a lot in the year’s time I’ve been at this position, definitely. I know I have grown as a person and matured a little since this time last year! If I were to sum up what I’ve learned into a few bullet points, it would be the following:
- Music does NOT help me focus, unless I am drawing.
- I tend to move slowly when there is music (especially with lyrics) because I start paying attention to the lyrics and painting mental pictures automatically. It’s exhausting trying to do two things at once!
- When the first “regular shift” employee came in, he would usually turn on the music instantly, and it was always too loud and from a genre in which I only like 2% of the songs. :/ Most of the songs were filled with highly negative, dark, and demotivating messages, which made me angry and depressed my drive….which also made me move more slowly. Did I complain? No, because it was my own fault I didn’t have the sandwiches done before the music came on.
- Workplace politics happens even at the small “family” business level.
- Some employees are more favored than others; I’ve heard other employees complain about other employees behind their backs (often “he’s lazy” and such).
- It doesn’t help when 90% of the employees are or have been high school/college kids.
- I have to make decisions based on my own judgement and not seek others’ opinions all the time.
- At the beginning, I had to have my hand held a lot. I meant no harm; I was only trying to do what my boss thought was right so I wouldn’t displease him. He finally told me that I was being annoying (in a word) and that I had to use my own judgement.
- How to make wraps that don’t fall apart! 😀
- Boiled eggs’ shells peel off faster when you’re wearing vinyl gloves.
- I place a high emphasis on efficiency and reliability.
- While I already knew reliability was very important to me, through this job I came to the realization that efficiency is also very important to me. In everything I do, I always try to find ways to be more efficient without sacrificing quality. I’ll even offer advice to others on more efficient ways to do things, though usually they just decide to keep doing it the way they are. = _ =;
- This is why I get frustrated if I’m slogging through something; half of me is focused on trying to come up with a more efficient way of doing it!
- There are many more people wearing facades than you think there are.
- That, and people can change a lot in a year’s time…in good ways and bad ways. In short, there are a lot of hurt people in the world. In fact, I don’t think any one of us has no emotional bruising, and a lot of us art hurt even more than that. :/
- Boiled eggs are AMAZING with Weasel Sneeze (or any kind of spicy, dry seasoning blend) and soy-free Veganaise mayo! *q*
- What is truly important to me.
- Doing things you don’t enjoy as much (things that aren’t your passion) helps put your priorities in perspective.
- How to better manage my time.
- How to manage a checkbook.
- My first page of recorded transactions looks terrible. XD So many things scribbled out from where I messed up. Nonetheless, I think I’ve got the hang of it now.
- I really do hate bugs.
Well, that’s it! From here on out, I’m focusing all of my efforts on my artwork and related projects! 😀
Thanks for reading, if you made it all the way to the end XD I hope writing a bit about my experience with this sandwich-making job and what I’ve learned can help someone else. Even if it’s a “simple” job, there are still valuable lessons to be learned from it–that’s something else I learned too!
What sorts of things did you learn from your first job?